The different senses in which ‘rights’ are used in every day language need to be differentiated. The most fundamental distinction to be grasped is that between a claim-right and a liberty, as drawn by Hohfeld. The rights we have against the rest of the world are then considered. The characteristics of public rights, rights to reputation, and bodily integrity are scrutinised. The basic division between acts and omissions, misfeasance and non-feasance, is shown to be best explained and expressed in terms of the absence of any general right that others confer benefits upon us, including the protection from harm. Contractual rights do not exhaust the law of voluntarily assumed right, many of which are found within the common law. The ability of all of us to waive even our most fundamental rights, commonly put in Latin as volenti non fit injuria, sheds some light on why we have the rights we do.
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